Brentford owner Matthew Benham made his fortune from shrewd gambling but even he couldn’t have foreseen how emphatically the club’s punt on Christian Eriksen would pay off.
His arrival has coincided with a miraculous turnaround in fortunes, exemplified by Saturday’s stunning 4-1 win at Chelsea, that has steered them away from relegation.
Brentford had to ease the former Tottenham Hotspur playmaker back into Premier League action, having not played competitively since his terrifying collapse last summer.
The 30-year-old did not make his first appearance until late February, coming off the bench in a 2-0 defeat at home to fellow strugglers Newcastle United.
It was Brentford’s ninth loss in 11 top-flight games, a run that looked increasingly like it would drag them back down to the Championship 12 months after promotion.
But Eriksen started the following week at Norwich City, where the west Londoners won 3-1. They won their next match, 2-0 against Burnley, with Eriksen claiming an assist.
And then at the weekend he marked his best performance yet with a first Brentford goal as they came from behind to embarrass their well-heeled neighbours.
Every game Eriksen has started, Thomas Frank’s team have won. The effect has been to arrest their freefall and lift them from the danger zone to within three points of the top half of the table.
Such has been the transformation that it simply can’t all be down to one player, and the return to fitness of striker Ivan Toney has also proven a timely boost.
But it is undeniable that Eriksen – the first Premier League player fitted with an implantable cardioverter defibrillator to restart his heart in case it stops again – has added a creativity and quality of final ball previously absent at Brentford.
His return to form is also a highly personal triumph, one he capped with goals in both of Denmark’s international friendlies against Holland and Serbia last week.
If he continues improving at this rate, Eriksen will have a claim to being among the most important January signings in Premier League history, as well as the latest canny bit of business from a club predicated on outsmarting the market.
“There is still more to come from him. He’s at a good level now but the last bit will take some time,” Frank said after the Burnley game last month.
“For me it was not a gamble. I was convinced he could help us and that he could be the best signing ever for Brentford.”